Lindy Ruff was praised by many after the Dallas Stars' Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. The Stars were badly out-shot by Florida on opening night and the Cody Eakin line was clearly an issue defensively, but the veteran coach stuck to his guns and got a win.
"He could have easily changed things around," Stars owner Tom Gaglardi told the Dallas Morning News, "but he didn't, and it worked."
Idle hands during a five-day break and the (very effective) return of Rich Peverley, however, have afforded Ruff and staff the time to play around with some different line combinations, perhaps even offering them the chance to see things they wanted to in September but couldn't after an irregular heartbeat sidelined the versatile forward.
And even after a win, those lines might change after all.
Wednesday the Stars took a look at Peverley on the top line with Seguin and Benn, and the rest of the lineup would appear to fall like this if that change were to happen-
Erik Cole might be have been the best player on that line through two games. Whether that's praise of Cole, indictment of Benn and Seguin in the early-going, or both I don't know. To move Cole after such a fine month of hockey beside those two would seem a shame, but Ruff knows he needs more from his top players and a spark could come in the form of Peverley.
"We used that (combination) in yesterday's practice," Ruff told media Wednesday. "I think it kind of balances the size out on the lines. We talked about it again today and we'll talk about it again tomorrow morning, but I think it's a look we are going to take a peek at."
Tyler Seguin has won just 10 of his 31 face-offs this year (32%) and that could be a motivating factor here as well.
Fiddler, Garbutt and Nichushkin could generate a lot of speed, but at what frequency? That figures to be a lower minute combination, and it might just be what the young Russian needs as he eases into the league and North American game.
There are just as many reasons to keep things as they were, however. The minute distribution against the Capitals was a balanced thing of beauty, and Peverley with Roussel gave the Stars a real nice option and tremendous depth. Fourth line versus fourth line, the Stars would have the advantage over most. Peverley would presumably get special teams duty and spot top-six minutes as well.
Again, that look would be this one:
The X factor here is the Eakin line. One good game and another that was not so good - How will they respond to defensive match-ups on the road in a back-to-back situation against divisional opponents? Peverley could also fit nicely where Cody Eakin is now, providing a defensive safety net while Whitney and Alex Chiasson ply their craft in the offensive end.
So Ruff has many possibilities, but thanks to the NHL's scheduling of a five day break here, a very small sample size to use as input on making these decisions. So he's ready to get back at it.
"I'm ready," Ruff said Wednesday. "I'm tired of seeing you guys. It's been a long week."
The Stars, who will be the only team in the league by tomorrow night to have only played two games, mercifully resume action in Winnipeg Friday at 7:00pm CDT.
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